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  INCOMING! MARCH 14, 2005.  


How fun that Brain Awareness Week happens to start on Albert Einstein's birthday! On a more morbid note, the UK's National Brain Injury Week also starts today, on the wedding anniversary of Ernest Hemingway.

Today is the anniversary of the death of lyricist Howard Ashman, best known for his songs for Disney animated movies. The Disney renaissance of the late 80s/early 90s is largely thanks to Ashman's kid-friendly but sophisticated lyrics, and he left some big shoes to fill. Tim Rice, a longtime accomplice of Andrew Lloyd Webber, stepped into them and promptly doused them with vomit.

The shackles are off! Jay Leno returns triumphantly to the stage tonight free of a gag order intended to prevent him from cracking jokes about Michael Jackson. A judge ruled on Friday that Leno, a potential witness in the case, could make jokes about Jackson as long as they weren't directly related to Leno's involvement in the trial. Something to think about while watching Letterman tonight.






Beware the Ides of March. On this date, Julius Caesar was assassinated, stabbed 23 times by a group of his senators. "Ides" was just an Ancient Roman way of saying "15th." (They had a ridiculously convoluted system for referring to each day of a month. I, for example, was born on the Kalends of September. Yo-Yo Ma was born on the Nones of October. Most other days were referred to by how many days were going to pass before certain other days arrived… and… Nevermind.)

But "Ides" survives, thanks to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, a play that got the assassination date right but misfired on another bit of chronology: a stage direction dictates that a clock chimes offstage. In 44 BC.

Speaking of the betrayal of world leaders, Bush's Coalition gets a little less Willing today, as the Netherlands are expected to complete their withdrawal from Iraq. No need to panic. We'll always have Ukraine fighting alongside us. Wait… No, they're leaving today too.

And actor Sean Biggerstaff turns 22 today. I just want to wish him a happy birthday and congratulate him on his name. Well done, dude.





In 1850, on March 16 (or as the Ancient Romans would say, "the XVII Kalends of April"), The Scarlet Letter was published. Since it's also Freedom of Information Day, we can finally find out what that shameful "A" stands for.

"Atomic Bomb?" Thomas Wilson Ferebee, who dropped one on Hiroshima, died on this date in 2000.

"Auschwitz?" It's the birthday of Josef Mengele.

"Axel Attack?" In 1994, Tonya Harding pled guilty to hindering the investigation of the Nancy Kerrigan clubbing.

"Angelina?" It is Lips Appreciation Day.

"Arizona?" (As in, "By the time I get to…?") It's Flavor Flav's birthday.




Or simply "Abomination?" If not for the novel, we'd never have had that Demi Moore movie.




Oooh -- isn't that pretty? Asterisks are falling like snowflakes into the baseball record books. They say no two are the same.

Yup, storm's a-brewin'. A lineup worthy of an All-Star Team has been subpoenaed to testify in the Congressional Hearing on Steroids today: Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco (who will probably be the recipient of many cold, gargantuan shoulders).

All this is in the wake of Canseco's book, Juiced, in which he reminisces about locker room trysts where he and fellow beefy ballplayers took turns injecting each other's asses: scenes that would seem pretty damn homoerotic if not for the participants' severely decreased sex drive. Meanwhile, players have been reporting to spring training looking like skeletons sheathed in Naugahyde, and their fingers are suddenly too small for the grooves they squeezed into their bats last season.

On a related note, it's also the birthday of French bicyclist Franck Bouyer. Bouyer is narcoleptic, so he takes a drug called modafinil that helps keep him awake. But the International Cycling Union has banned him from racing, because they consider modafinil a performance-enhancing drug. They have a point, if by "performance-enhancing," they mean "preventing you from waking up in a hospital with a mouthful of spokes."

It's also St. Patrick's Day. You know about the green vomit and the leprechauns. Here are three things you didn't know about St. Patrick, one for each leaf o' the clover:

  • He wasn't born an Irish Catholic! He began life as a Welsh Pagan.

  • He became Bishop to Ireland like the runner-up in a beauty pageant. St. Palladius had the job, but decided to transfer to Scotland. So Patrick became the Suzette Charles to Palladius's Vanessa Williams.

  • His jawbone was preserved in a silver shrine and was often invoked against the evil eye.

And the NCAA Basketball Tournament begins today, kicking off a couple weeks of low office productivity. My pick? My alma mater, the Fighting Illini. In the final game of the season they managed to pull off a miraculous last-second loss to Ohio State, brilliantly easing the pressure that



an undefeated season would have caused and freeing them up never to lose again. That, my friends, is smart basketball.




You know all those coincidences between Lincoln and Kennedy? That's nothing. The 22nd and 24th Presidents were both born on March 18 in Caldwell, New Jersey. They both died at age 71. They both married women named Frances. #22's first name was "Grover" and last name was "Cleveland." #24's LAST name was "Cleveland" and FIRST name was "Grover." Yes, Grover Cleveland, the only US President to serve two nonconsecutive terms, was born today. You probably recognize him from his picture on the $1,000 bill.

Cleveland lost the 1888 election to William Henry Harrison despite garnering more popular votes, a hitch in the electoral process that has since been corrected. And turns out it's a big week for jawbones -- Cleveland's cancerous jawbone was replaced with a rubber one, which somehow failed to reach the legendary status of either St. Patrick's jawbone or Washington's wooden teeth.

And since it's okay to rib Michael Jackson, I'll



mention that on March 18, 1998, he disguised himself as an Arab woman and took his son to a Munich toy store. Luckily, it's also Forgive Mom & Dad Day.


Dave Stinton is a Chicago playwright who also writes The Sound of One Hand Withholding Applause. Visit him, won't you? I-L-L!


INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table.